By on December 11, 2012

Since we were on the subject of electronic and computerized vehicle protection systems, it seemed like a logical move to begin a discussion of another long-standing and not universally beloved vehicle subsystem—this one ostensibly purposed to save us from ourselves, or at least our vehicles from “the nut behind the wheel”.

To say that the technologies employed in this quest have had mixed results, at best, would lean a little toward the generous side.

What started as often a very rudimentary electric buzzer, activated by just a couple of critical conditions related to door and ignition key position, eventually morphed into an exhaustive array of monitored components—each with their very own distinctive tone!

We now have warnings for everything from low tire pressure and vital fluid levels to electrical system malfunction, and most anything one can think of in between. It got so complex, manufacturers finally lumped all of these monitored systems into one centralized display with one tone, and a lighted digital display listing the offending components, circuits or subsystems. With a mighty ding (or dong) you would then be reminded of low windshield washer fluid level, how many miles until an empty fuel tank or until the next recommended oil service, the need to have other routine maintenance performed, or a host of other less-than-life-threatening events in progress every time you started off for a drive.

There were also a lot of interesting—if not obnoxiously implemented—detours and dead-ends along the way, too.

From my perspective as a technician and shop owner, the big crux with these devices has been: How critical they are to the to the actual operation of the vehicle, and how easy they are to be defeated—as in SILENCED.

In the kinder and gentler days of yore, the tacky and equally volumetric warning buzzer could be accessed with ease—sometimes without even removing the lower dash panel—and simply unplugged; with no untoward results to the rest of the vehicle. Disconnecting, or otherwise rendering an interior audible warning device inoperative on a modern vehicle is pretty much the polar opposite.

A friend of mine recently acquired a relatively late-model M/Benz E320, and came to hate the in-cabin warning buzzer (yes, they have come full-circle, apparently, with regard to employed tone) almost immediately. He’s a pretty tolerant guy, so when he described the aggravation he was experiencing with this work of the Devil, I understood why he just had to take an immediate time-out and silence the thing. I’m pretty sure he didn’t know what he was getting into when he started dismantling the dash, piece by piece, until he zeroed in on the exact location of the offending unit. It turned out to be soldered into—as in being a completely integrated component part of—the instrument cluster electronic motherboard! After careful consideration of the ramifications of his next move, he went the B.F.I.

(Brute Force and Ignorance) route and CRUSHED it with a pair of slip-joint pliers!

From my objective standpoint, that sounded like a risky move. What if such an action inhibited some other essential process from being accomplished? It would have been hard to correct the damage done, and another motherboard would have to be sourced—complete with fully operational warning buzzer! Talk about potential for adding insult to injury!

Fortunately, the only effect of his action was the desired one; and several hours later, he was able to experience newfound sanity from behind the wheel.

Not that all attempts at in-cabin warning devices have been equally useless. There have been a few exceptions, in my opinion. The manufacturer often referred to them as a “chime”—a term that actually had some merit.

Who could forget the “tinkle-tinkle” that wafted pleasantly from behind the dash of earlier Subaru models? So pleasant as to be missing a sense of urgency that might have actually been appropriate, it was.

Or how about the key-in door-open three-note melody that earlier VW models came equipped with. It was the first three notes of the English Hunting Call, for heaven’s sake! That seemed like a very positive way to encourage the driver to get in and get on with it.

Then, of course, what I consider the crowning achievement of audible warning-dom: The synthesized vocal warning! A customer of mine referred to the “voice” in his Chrysler K-Car as “Guido”—a sarcastic take on the nickname of the then-President of Chrysler.

I think auto manufacturers really missed a great opportunity by not running a little more with the vocal warning. Yeah, “Guido” was a fairly boring take; but why stop there and say that’s as good as it gets? Why not offer a wide variety of voices and approaches to warning the driver? Want to be reminded to shut the door by a caricature nagging female voice, saturated with attitude? Might even prompt the driver to open the door at odd times just to hear her “go off”! Not your cup of tea? How about a sexy male voice telling you that you’ve forgotten to turn off the headlights? You might find yourself leaving them on purposely just to see if he still cares enough to remind you, yet again—without a hint of impatience!

Or maybe record your own vocal warnings. The possibilities are really endless; and in an era where people are trying to find ways to inject personality into their expensive and equally soulless appliances, it seems like a no-brainer for manufacturers to provide such an option.

You read it first RIGHT HERE, in the annals of “Memoirs of an Independent Repair Shop Owner”. All rights reserved. Void where prohibited by law. Member TTAC. You know how to contact me.

As an ASE Certified L1 Master Tech, Phil ran a successful independent repair shop on the West Coast for close to 20 years, working over a decade before that at both dealer and independent repair shops. He is presently semi-retired from the business of auto repair, but still keeps his hand in things as a consultant and in his personal garage.

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60 Comments on “Memoirs Of An Independent Repair Shop Owner: I Don’t Like Your Tone – Some Thoughts on In-Cabin Audible Warning Devices...”


  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    Yes, I too am surprised that voice warnings have not made a comeback. After all, GPS voice corrections have now become commonplace in the environment of your car.

    The “Bitchin Betty” in my 85 300zx was well-synthesized, she calmly informed me of maladies. I did my best to leave her in until my car became so heavily modified that it was no longer possible.

    I wish Betty would come back to tell me WHICH tire is low (or has the defective TPMS sensor) on my Taurus X.

  • avatar

    Most chimes are tolerable these days, and some–like BMW’s, Ford’s, Jaguar/Land Rover’s and Porsche’s–can even be somewhat pleasant. But I do understand what your friend is talking about. If you forget to put on your safety belt in a Mercedes-Benz vehicle, it responds by going: “beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep…!” Right, because I definitely want my six-figure SLS AMG or Maybach making noises like that at me. Never mind the risk of needing a new circuit-board; I’d have crushed that sucker too if it were my vehicle!

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    I’ve always wanted an acknowledgment, or “Yes, I know, shut up already” override button. In my Caravan I often have one of the doors open while the key is in the ignition. That nonstop dong dong dong drives me nuts.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    My invariable response to audible warnings is, “F— off, Ralph!”

  • avatar
    bludragon

    It does seem that cars today have a propensity to over-reacting and effectively crying wolf, such that by the time there is a real problem one has already developed a mental filter to the warning noise…

    The first car I had with a warning sound did it right, actually it was a loud beep that would sound seemingly only if you really had done something the car did not like and as such was rarely heard.

    Now with both cars we own there is a set sequence of door, seatbelt and ignition that one must follow in order to avoid the warning when simply getting into the car and driving off. To make it even worse, in the really clever one (BMW), you need to allow a slight delay between each event for the computer to keep up.

    Fortunately I was able to partly restore my sanity when I discovered a plug that could be disconnected from the Honda ignition barrel to disable the particularly obnoxious and completely unnecessary “key in ignition-door open” unending beeping, whilst leaving all other warning beeps still operable.

    • 0 avatar
      rwb

      I’ll happily sign a disclaimer at the dealership if they can drop this crap and give me the ability to drive around with my doors open and seatbelt off.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        Seatbelt use is mandatory in most if not all states. I’m sure most states would quickly come up with huge fines for disconnecting the fasten seatbelt warnings. How states enforce seatbelt laws varies widely. Darwinism, not so much. I always love how local TV stations only tell half the truth on some fatal traffic accidents. What’s said: The occupants where thrown from the vehicle. What’s left unsaid: thrown from the vehicle because they weren’t wearing seatbelts. Off soapbox.

      • 0 avatar
        rwb

        It is mandatory here, but unenforced. Never gotten a second glance.

        As for Darwin I’ll buckle up for long, high-speed trips or if I have an inkling before setting off, but frankly, with no dependents I don’t give a damn.

  • avatar
    jeremy1001

    My 1998 Golf had a relay that was responsible for all the warnings. It was a weird chime noise that would vary in speed depending on the issue, such as leaving the door open, key in or lights on. It wasn’t too long before I pulled the relay out and tossed it in the trash.

  • avatar
    Marko

    Was the “relatively late-model” E320 a W210 (’96-’02) or a W211 (’03-’09)? The W210 had an obnoxious “alarm clock” beep (though that was really the least of its problems). The W211, on the other hand, had a fairly pleasant (for a warning chime) “ding” sound much like a newer VW or Audi.

    Unfortunately, with the latest E-Class (W212), Mercedes seems to have backpedaled to the obnoxious beeping. Why is that?

    Another feature of the W211 that I really liked was that the door chime stayed silent most of the time. If you had just put the key in and had the door open, the chime would not sound. In fact, you could open and close the door as many times as you wanted, and the chime would never sound until you started the car. Even if you had the car running and opened the driver’s door, the chime would not sound unless the car was moving. Only after you had turned the car off would the door chime sound.

    I’m not sure if MB still has that feature.

  • avatar
    rwb

    I had to build a plastic replica of my seat belt clip to end the horrible beep that Honda decided was necessary to warn you that you’re not buckled up, as if you wouldn’t know.

    The other chimes aren’t so bad, and prevent me from leaving my lights on at the least.

    • 0 avatar
      cirats

      Wow – great idea – wonder why I never thought of that! I use the seatbelt 95% of the time but every once in a while I don’t want to – maybe because I have on a suit or a heavy coat, or am not leaving the neighborhood. Fine in my car but my wife’s Honda beeps at you every 10-15 seconds. Would be great to keep an extra belt clip handy for such occasions. Wonder where I can get one. How did you make one? Could you use something like an old credit card?

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        1. Go to a junkyard/parts store and and just grab a real clip. It’s probably no more expensive than making one.
        2. Use the existing one, and buckle it before sitting down. (I used to drive a company car that had to have mileage checked & recorded daily, and the odometer wouldn’t show up unless the key was in the “on” position, which set off the seat belt chime. I just buckled it, sat on top of it, recorded the mileage on the necessary forms in peace.)
        3. Just wear the seat belt, because even with a suit or coat, it isn’t a big deal.

      • 0 avatar
        rwb

        Sure, definitely doesn’t have to be perfect- I just hacked up a DVD case. Credit card might even be better.

      • 0 avatar

        Not to encourage the non-use of a safety belt, but you can also buckle-up behind your back instead of over your lap and chest and just sit in front of the safety belt.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    My 2004 VW was the absolute worst that I ever had. If you started the car without your seat belt, it would chime every 20 or 30 seconds for 5 whole minutes. Annoying as F-U-C-K. If you clicked your seat belt to shut it up, then undid the belt, the timer would reset. ARRRRGH!!!!

    Disclaimer: I ALWAYS drive with my seat belt on. However, I don’t always sit in a parking lot listening to the radio with a seat belt on. Sometimes you need to have to car running for other reasons than just driving it.

    Turns out there was a cable under the driver seat I needed to disconnect. But in a moment of stupidity I disconnected the wrong one and got an airbag light instead. And of course those can only be cleared with an OBD connection. I had to drop $250 on a VAGCOM to avoid paying nearly a grand for the dealership to “diagnose” the problem. Needless to say, while I had the VAGCOM, I disable the damn seat belt chime too.

  • avatar
    LeeK

    What has gotten out of control is the shear amount of events that will trgger and audible warning. Not fastening a seatbelt is one thing, and low oil pressure is another. But outside temperature is 39F? 30 miles left to refuel? Maintenance due next month? Replace the brake fluid every two years?

    My E90 328i constantly warned me of impending doom/routine maintenance due (even annual state inspections starting two months in advance) with a corresponding electronic message to BMW Central which would result in an inevitable e-mail and follow up phone call from the dealer reminding me that “your car informed us that your brake pads are worn.” After a whike I actually marveled at the few moments each year that the MFD WASN’T griping and dinging at me the second I started the car. And I am very good about keeping up with maintenance, but this bordered on the ridiculous. I sold the damn thing, relieved that its replacement brought some sanity to the man/machine interface.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Murilee has a small record player that was the voice module in a japanese car. It’s amazing to behold a tiny mechanical device like that which tells you to fasten a belt.
    My aftermarket stereo has an annoying chime meant to remind you to remove the faceplate for security. No one steals radios much these days and unfortunately there is no way to disable it. I’ll have to dissect the radio to get to it some day.
    It’s probably against federal law to disable some of these warning devices, let’s not give them ideas if it’s not.
    I had a Ranger with a broken key switch that would not turn off the buzzer. I put up with it until I got home then ripped the buzzer out from behind the glove box. Try driving for an hour with the key buzzer going off, road rage for sure.
    There should be a delete option for this kind of stuff. I’ll take my car without the nanny features thank you very much.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “It’s probably against federal law to disable some of these warning devices, let’s not give them ideas if it’s not.”

      It’s definitely not. Your dealer will disable them as a service if you wish.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    A buddy of mine has a nicely restored Fox Body Mercury Capri, and he actually did the Tempo door buzzer/headlight switch mod.

    Stock, it had the ear piercing 80′s buzzer, it was bad. So he replaced with with the much more pleasant “ding…ding…ding” of the Tempo door chime, a welcome improvement.

    Personally, I probably would have just killed the original buzzer and left it at that, but the extra effort is appreciable.

  • avatar
    sckid213

    My ’08 CTS is equipped with live traffic monitoring through Sirius XM. When you’re driving on the freeway and the system senses a traffic “event” ahead, a female robot voice booms in over the stereo with “ATTENTION PLEASE. In two miles…traffic jam (or ‘accident,’ ‘narrow lane,’ ‘construction,’ etc.)” However, there is no warning chime or tone before she speaks. She just yells, loudly, over the radio. It scared the CRAP out of me the first time it happened because I had no idea to expect it and I was listening to some nice downtempo musicat a relatively low volume at the time.

    I suppose I could turn the voice off somehow, but I enjoy seeing passengers’ reactions to the voice who have never heard it before. Many seem to think she is going to announce something like “ATTENTION PLEASE…in two miles…SELF-DESTRUCT…30…29…28…”

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    Not a warning alarm per se, but the tail of using ‘BFI’ to silence something noisy in a car reminded me of a Ford Sierra I bought at auction for the Princely sum of one hundred pounds. It was a great car apart from the sodding alarm which would randomly start honking away. There was never any clear cut reason why it went off, and aside from disconnecting the horn (which I didn’t want to do), I tried to tolerate it. But after 2 days I couldn’t stand it any more, so upon the advice of a friend who was better versed in dodgy Ford electronics than me, I ‘found the brain and killed it’. This involved pulling the alarm box out from under the dash, beating it to death with a hammer and then plugging it back in again. GENIUS!

  • avatar
    8rings

    I really wish the seat belt warning would be restricted to when you’re actually moving. A flashing gauge light could warn you while you’re stopped. I just hate the second I put my key in the ignition the damn car starts bonging, beeping, chiming. I usually start the car right away, then put up my radar detector, set climate controls, put on my seatbelt, etc… before I start to drive. Hey, if I pull off without my seatbelt on, then fair game. Until then…shut the hell up!

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      I believe the European standard is exactly this. On a VW/Audi, you can set the seat belt chime to North America or Europe, and I believe there is also the choice of the old North America chime or the new one.

      Europe is: if seatbelt is unbuckled, the light illuminates, and if the vehicle is going above X kph, the chime occurs for Y seconds
      North America (new): if seatbelt is unbuckled, the light illuminates, and the chime occurs every 30 seconds for at least 5 seconds
      North America (old): I believe this is light all the time if belt is unbuckled, chime only upon vehicle start.

      The European chime scheme makes much more sense than the current North American one, and that’s what I set mine to. Now it doesn’t beep when I’m waiting briefly with the car on — that used to drive me crazy.

  • avatar
    Ex Radio Operator

    I had an aftermarket radio (HD) installed in my 2006 GMC Truck. For some reason it killed the gong sound. The flashing lights still work. Win win.

  • avatar
    sco

    One of the joys of my 2006 Scion Xb is that it has no audible warning when my seat belt is disconneted, none. A light on the dash blinks and that’s it – and that’s enough. I don’t know if this in intentional or how Scion got away with it (is an audible sound mandatory?), but I sure appreciate it.

  • avatar

    The warning I loathe the most is the backup beeper on the Prius, which operates inside the cabin only! Sheesh! I mean, if you’re backing up, you don’t have to be reminded by that infernal beeping. Whose idea was that???

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3018517/

    I also hate the sound of the beeper on my Honda that warns me if I haven’t buckled my seat belt, if I open the door with the keys still in the ignition, the lights still on, etc. Why does the effin soiund have to be such an unpleasant one?

  • avatar
    Lemmy-powered

    The “low washer fluid” tone in a Golf/Jetta MK4 is not only inappropriately loud and shrill, it’s exactly the same as an “autopilot disconnect” tone in various small aircraft (like C172R). It works well as the latter.

    The first time it sounded in my Golf, I instinctively scanned my primary instruments and fumbled for my chart.

    • 0 avatar
      Hoser

      I bought an aftermarket headlight-on reminder buzzer for my Chevette. It would freak out my pilot buddy because it sounded just like the stall warning in his plane.

    • 0 avatar
      Phil Coconis

      Great comments, my friends!

      I didn’t mention the seatbelt warning because I generally never hear it in any motor vehicles so equipped–as fastening the belt is the first thing I do when I’m seated.
      As far as seatbelt audible warning is concerned, loud and obnoxious is just fine, as long as it doesn’t cut in prematurely (like before the driver or passengers are seated with the ignition “on”).

      BTW, is that “Lemmy” as in Kilmister, of “Motorhead” fame?

      • 0 avatar
        Lemmy-powered

        I achieved happiness by disabling my current car’s seatbelt chime with a well-known Subaru easter egg fix. Makes shunting the car in the driveway a lot less annoying.

        And yes, I’ve been known to tap my feet to the V8 rhythm sections of Motorhead and Hawkwind.

      • 0 avatar
        gearhead77

        As a lover of wheeled things who makes a living driving winged things, I have a love/hate relationship with warning devices.

        I use the same logic in my cars that’s been used in aircraft cockpit for years: Red is bad, amber is caution and green (or white) is advisory. I look, determine what could be going on and go from there. I don’t need lots of dings and bings or other things. I lament the loss of gauges in cars, but no one knows what they are saying anyway.

        It’s funny that the “Whoop, Whoop, Pull Up” warning shown for the GPWS (Ground Proximity Warning System) in airplanes is on a thread talking about obnoxious vehicle warnings. The early GPWS systems used to false alarm quite a bit, leading pilots to ignore them. Air Traffic Control has a similar warning system. It also would false quite bit when introduced, controllers were hesitant to tell pilots. Put those two together, add a wrong part plus a burnt out light and you have some of the factors for the Eastern Airlines 401 crash in the Florida Everglades.

        Most aircraft, especially jets, can be flown faster than they were designed to go, especially at low altitudes. Hence, an overspeed warning is required by certification. Yet it can,on most aircraft, be disabled by pulling a circuit breaker. More than a few wrecked airplanes have been found with the overspeed C/B pulled.

        I don’t mind warning systems in cars or airplanes. They are there, in theory, to prevent us from doing dumb things. But at least in an airplane, I’m usually given some way to disable them (certain failures or conditions can trigger constant warnings, so disabling is occasionally necessary). This wouldn’t work for the general “turn the key and go” auto buying public or the manufacturers lawyers.

    • 0 avatar
      Dimwit

      That’s strange. Both my MKIV’s were just a chime. One ding and that was it. Of course, every restart reset it and it would ding again until you filled the bottle.

      • 0 avatar
        Lemmy-powered

        I had two 2003s (one German-built, one Brazilian-built) and they were both one long, loud BEEEEEEEEEEP. Perhaps this was one of the many components revised through the storied life cycle of the MKIV.

  • avatar
    ownsone

    IIRC (and I may not) Tom and Ray, The Famed Tappet Brothers, presented a “Puzzler” that was solved by the blindfolded victim knowing that the door chime of the car he was forced into spelled out the name of the car mfr, or the first letter thereof, in morse code. It may have been a Honda. I may have been dreaming. Corrections and improvements are welcome.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    +1
    As long as the vehicle is in “P”, how difficult -software wise- would it be to disable the g*******m seat belt warning?

    When I’m washing and cleaning my vehicle’s interior, I like to do it listening to the stereo…makes the chore far easier.
    However with the darn dong-dong-dong, one can’t do it anymore.

  • avatar
    makuribu

    A friend of mine gave me a ride in his dad’s 80s Chrysler. He said “My dad’s car is soooo stupid. Listen to this:” “Hey car, what is the definition of ‘door’?”. He pulled on his door latch and the car said “A door is a jar.” “Wrong!” my friend yelled at the dashboard. “What a stupid car…”

  • avatar
    DrunkenDonuts

    My Grandmother used to have a car, and I can’t remember the make, but it would tell you, “The door is a jar.” Note that it did NOT say, “The door is ajar”. There was a very noticeable pause there, which I always got a chuckle out of it.

  • avatar
    segxr7

    I forgot about the actual bell in the old Subarus. Back in the day, my granddad had one in his olive green GL/10 turbo 5-speed wagon. I wish cars were still that weird. 80s Cadillacs had them, too. Those definitely needed more distinction between “a door is open” and “the POS HT4100 is self-destructing”.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Some of these in the ’70s-’90s could be really bad. Here is one from a ’90s F150:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&list=UU2dBZuI6gS-jv7PCIDXkXag&v=b4yBKrlyF8E#t=37s

    It sounds like an angry swarm of bees.

  • avatar
    KindaFondaHonda

    My 1989 Nissan Maxima had the little (actual) bell that “tinkled” as a warning chime. I loved it. Not too loud and none of that buzzer/bonging/beeping/dinging of other cars.

    Had a 2000 Maxima SE that had a very faint electronic “bonger” chime. Not as nice as the bell, but classy nonetheless.

    Have a couple Infinitis now with a louder “bonger” chime. Not horrible, but not as nice as the others.

    Also have a 2003 Accord EXL V6 with the damn 5 beat beeper for the key in ignition and seatbelt. The seatbelt part isn’t the problem because I am a 100% user, and this model year doesn’t have the “beeping while moving” feature.

    The headlight-on warning is a beautiful 2-note electronic “tinkle” I love. Funny how Acuras have the beeper for the headlights and the tinkle for the key and seatbelt (just the opposite of the Honda).

    If anyone knows where the beeper is located in this 7G Accord, or how I can just disconnect the beeper for the key in ignition, TELL ME. I wish I could figure out how to use the headlight “tinkle” chime instead of the beeper for all warnings.

    The key in ignition beeper is so stupid because if the key is in the ignition, the doors cannot be locked by remote (the buttons are part of the key), and the power lock button won’t activate if the key is in the cylinder anyway. Just silly.

    Help me silence the alarm clock beeper!!!

    • 0 avatar
      bludragon

      In a 2008 honda civic there is a plug on the ignition barrel that connects to the switch to detect the key is inserted. Disconnect that plug et viola! I guess you might also then be able to lock the doors with the key in, but you would have to be in the car to do that, or outside with your 2nd key, so I have no idea what the point is in preventing that.

  • avatar
    Kookie2

    I still love Eddie Murphy’s take on the voice alert: “Hey man! Someone stole your bat-try!”

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    Three bad designs I’ve encountered:
    (1) 1986 gray market Mercedes 300D (with the 6 cylinder, not 5) gave the seatbelt warning chime when you turned the key to activate the glowplugs. With that car, the absolute first thing you wanted to do after you got in on a cold morning was start the 20 second waiting process during which you could get everything else–including the seatbelt–ready.

    (2) My Porsche Cayman (2008) has a standard warning system to tell me things like my engine is about to explode or tire pressure is low… or that you only have 50 miles of gasoline left. Apparently, a full time analog gas gage with an extra orange warning light at the bottom of the gage as well as a full time digital miles-until-empty display is insufficient warning; I need to be alerted through the warning system and need to take extra steps acknowledge the warning before the usual display items reappear.

    (3) Absolutely the most ridiculous beep is any loud beep that sounds any time a vehicle is locked and unlocked. Maybe you just need to live in a 500 unit apartment complex with plenty of people coming and going at all hours of the night to appreciate how bad this is. I wouldn’t mind a vehicle design where the beeping was a secondary button on the remote control, but some cars and trucks seem to beep each and every time the vehicle is locked or unlocked.

  • avatar
    outback_ute

    The one that annoys me is the passenger seatbelt minder chime that is activated by <10 lb of stuff sitting on the seat.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    Ah, memories of reaching under the dash of the Chevette as a high school kid and being so satisfied at how easy it was to eliminate the horrible noise without even destroying anything.

    It really wasn’t difficult to snip the buzzer off the instrument panel circuit board in my Mazda3 though, especially with a factory service manual that provided detailed instructions on removing the IP. I had to get it out to put tint over the excessively bright blue “brights” indicator anyway. If its absence had caused an issue, I’d have just soldered a resistor in its place.

    • 0 avatar
      Paulro

      The seat belt reminder on my wife’s 2001 Passat is the same note as the harmonica intro on He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Brother by The Hollies.

      The back up alert on certain garbage trucks is the same two notes as the intro to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.

      Not a car, but the door closing chime on Toronto subways is the first three notes to the Sesame Street theme song.

      These songs play in my head whenever I hear these warnings.

  • avatar
    Phil Coconis

    All of this dialog tends to prove the worth of vehicles like my ’97 Suzuki TL 1000 S/R: 150 HP, 400 lbs., equally formidable brakes; and the only on-board computer is for limited engine management function (F.I. and Ignition). All other computerized functions, such as ABS, Traction Control, Stability System–and yes, even audible warnings–are a function of the processor housed between my ears.

    That’s probably as close to road-going Vehicular Freedom as one can get these days!

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    Several observations:

    1. My vote for worst buzzer has to be the ones in late-’70s to early-’80s GMs–those things could wake the dead!!!! (Close second is the noises made by the starter relays in most late-’60s to early-’70s cars–of all makes–with the first steering column-mounted ignitions–those things scared the living sh– out of me as a youngster, to the point where I dreaded seatbelt and ignition buzzers of ANY type until into my teens!) In the early ’80s, GM put a steady tone in the place of that obnoxious buzzer (1983 Buicks, like my Mom’s Regal Sedan, but could have been earler–I may have read that ’81 Grand Prixs were so-equipped). On smaller GMs, like my second car, a 1984 Pontiac Sunbird, there was one buzzer for seatbelt and key (unlike the bigger cars I mentioned above before they got the tones, and which had a separate, softer buzzer for the belts–you could hear both buzzers at once with the driver’s door open at startup), and it was much less ear-shattering and nerve-rattling.

    2. The Tempo/Topaz “bong-bong” chime has a weird “elegance” about it–not really obnoxious. The warning tones in today’s Fords are an absolute abomination, especially that wussy three-note tone for the key warning! Just my $0.02–no flame wars, please!

    3. Honda stepped up their game with the new Accord, but one of the little “unique” Honda touches was the little five-beep key tone, which Honda has removed in the recent redesigns, at least of the Accord and Civic. The new tones for the key and seatbelt aren’t ’71 Olds-bad (the starter-relay-generated noise I mentioned, called a sound “like a hillside full of nauseous goats” by legendary car-tester Tom McCahill (sp?)), or even ’78-Olds bad (the loud, wake-the-dead key buzzer), but they don’t have the “Honda-ness!”

    As for the “Belt Minder” in the Hondas, you have the normal light and beeper at startup, but if you let the car sit at idle w/o buckling up (unlike in Fords), you don’t get the “Minder” warning, and the warning only activates over a certain speed, so you can move the car slowly if needed; stopping the car seems to reset the “timer”–I’ve moved my car from one end of a mall parking lot to the other w/o buckling up or having the Minder activate by doing this. However, unlike the Fords (which have a “twist-the-key-while-facing-east-and-standing-on-your-head” procedure,” or maybe through some sort of Setup menu), the Honda Belt Minder CAN’T be totally disabled.


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